Now on his own: Catching up with independent distributor Matt Sledge

Matt Sledge, an independent mobile tool distributor in Murfreesburo, Tenn., has been continuing to better his business since Professional Distributor last spoke with him in September 2008. Now in the business for 12 years, Sledge continues to consistently show up for his customers each week and prides himself on the customer service he provides. 

"(My business) keeps growing, and it's growing because I keep running through flag dealers. We've had a lot of flag dealers come and go, and I've been the independent, consistent one," says Sledge. "Which has made customers more loyal to me, I think, because they know I'm there every single week."

(Read Matt Sledge's Distributor Profile article, On His Own, But Not Alone, featured in Professional Distributor's September 2008 issue.)

On his own

The one key difference, Sledge says, about his business now is that his wife, Shannon, no longer helps with the route as she once did. Shannon went back to school and started her own hair salon business. 

"Now, this woman just can't quit. She works from 9 in the morning until 6 or 7 at night. The income is great," says Sledge. "But, as far as running my route when I go out of town? That hasn't happened since 2008."

Previously, Sledge's wife would run his route for him if he was unable to, or out of town. She handled more collections than selling, but helped Sledge keep his business going. 

Now, he takes a different approach to still cater to his customers. He initially tried to run a promotion prior to the days or week he'd be out, but said that didn't work to his liking.

"I used to run promos and specials to get people to keep their payments up the week I was gone on vacation. But, that always turns into a hassle and generally ends up not fair for some customers, because about 60 percent of them comply."

Now, he's tweaked his strategy on collections for days he won't be running his route. 

"I just tell my customers 'You can have off this week because I have off this week. I'll catch you next week,'" says Sledge. "They really give you some flak that if you don't come by with the truck; they don't want to pay."

He extends this option to his customers, too, if they're not in the shop the day he's stopping by. 

Re-working the route

Along with working his route on his own, Sledge took steps to streamline his business. At the beginning of 2013, he re-worked his stops to make his route more efficient.

"I laid out all my stops on a map and tried to cut out my drive time. My route had gotten to be so big ... I was criss-crossing my paths a whole lot."

He revamped his route in order to have his farthest stop on Monday morning; on Fridays he'll stop at shops closer to his home.

"It was hard doing that, because I missed some customers that I saw during different shifts. But, I did gain a lot of customers that I wasn't seeing."

(Read about what products Sledge stocks on his truck.)